Google Chrome vs. Mozilla Firefox: Battle of the Web Browsers

Published: November 29, 2017 - 9:00am EST

Firefox and Google Chrome icons mixed

Google's "Chrome" and Mozilla's "Firefox" are two of the most popular web browsers that people use to surf the Internet. So, which one is right for you? Chrome? Firefox? Another browser entirely? A lot of people don't know or don't know how to find out, so they may just pick one randomly or go on the recommendation of a friend, family member, or other confidant.

However, there are tech-savvy people out there who have put the two browsers through their paces and sifted through the data to determine each one's pros and cons. We've condensed the leading findings into this article, and we’ll help you decide by comparing the two browsers head-to-head in several categories, including:

  • Speed and performance
  • Security and privacy
  • User interface
  • Plug-ins and extensions
  • Web and mobile standards compatibility
  • Memory and battery usage

Ready for a web browser rumble? Here we go!

Browser speed and performance

Chrome

Chrome used to be the fastest browser around, but it has lost ground to browsers like Microsoft Edge and Opera. Still, when compared to Firefox, it's generally speedier, especially when processing cutting-edge web technologies (we'll revisit this in a little bit). There are some processes that Firefox is actually better at dealing with than Chrome, but overall, Chrome is faster to install, and it's also faster and better at processing images and getting applications on the web to respond.

Firefox

Firefox offers performance that's reliable, if nothing else. In several benchmark tests, it always seemed to be in the upper-middle of the pack, and was rarely at the bottom. However, there were few metrics for which it came out clearly ahead of the competition. And while usually close, it got beat out by Chrome more often than not across major measuring categories, such as installation time, graphics processing time, and web application response time.

Speed and performance winner: Chrome

Both browsers are pretty close in terms of speed and performance, though they've fallen a bit behind up-and-comers (especially Microsoft Edge). Head-to-head, though, if you count up the number of benchmark tests where one browser is better than the other, Chrome gets the victory.

Security and privacy

Chrome

Both Chrome and Firefox share the ability to securely sync your settings across multiple devices, as well as to warn you about sites that aren't HTTPS secured. But Chrome has a few security features that put it ahead. Each tab and window in Chrome is secured separately, so visiting one bad site won't crash your whole browser (or, hopefully, your computer). And it self-contains certain older plug-ins that are vulnerable to security breaches so they're harder to hack.

Chrome security settings

It also has features that warn about dangerous downloads, as well as multi-account support that lets several people use different sets of settings on the browser even if they use the same device. However, because of Chrome's various integration features (which we'll talk about later), it's rather weak when it comes to protecting your online privacy.

Firefox

Firefox isn't quite as great with security as Chrome, such as not having separately-secured tabs and windows, but it's still pretty decent. It does have a big edge in privacy, though. Its private browsing mode features a built-in tracking program blocker, which is unique among major web browsers.

Firefox security settings

It also has a "reading mode" where you can read certain web content without ads cluttering up the screen. Finally, Firefox has over 2300 add-ons dedicated to security and privacy; Chrome doesn't have any specifically earmarked for these purposes.

Security and privacy winner: Firefox

Chrome edges out Firefox in terms of security, but Firefox is miles ahead of Chrome when it comes to privacy options. So, we'll give this one to Mozilla's browser for striking a better overall balance. If you don't feel that either of them are good enough, however, we have some alternative recommendations in our lesson on private web browsers.

User interface

Chrome

Chrome has won a lot of praise for its minimalist interface design. Most of its features are tucked away in a "More Options" menu, preventing them from distracting you from the rest of the web page you're trying to view. It also has handy shortcuts to other Google services, as you might expect.

Chrome Internet browser interface

However, it has a few noticeable flaws. One is that it doesn't have scrolling browser tabs or a customizable extensions toolbar like Firefox does, so your tabs and add-ons will pile up as you open and install them until your browser window is a mess. In addition, unlike Firefox, Chrome's default home page doesn't let you create shortcuts to sites you visit often; it just guesses these shortcuts based on where you've been most often.

Firefox

Firefox definitely has more stuff going on than Chrome in a browser window, but not necessarily to the point where it's a bad thing. For example, it has a search bar that's separate from its address bar, so you can look for information on a website without Firefox interpreting your search as you actually wanting to go to that website. Plus, the search bar is context-sensitive, so you can choose to look for your search terms on a specific website (such as eBay.com).

Firefox Internet browser interface

Another cool feature that Firefox has and Chrome doesn't is a customizable extensions toolbar. You can pick which add-ons you want to have at the ready, stash others in a sub-menu so they're not too far out of reach, and just hide the rest that you aren't using.

User interface winner: Firefox

This is probably one of the closest battles, especially because beauty is so subjective. Chrome is the less cluttered of the two browsers, though it loses points for some other sub-par design decisions. We'll give this one to Firefox for having flexible, customizable controls while still keeping its interface relatively clean.

Plug-ins and extensions

Chrome

Owing to Chrome's massive popularity, it has a thriving community of add-on developers. Over 30 categories of extensions are available for Chrome, from office essentials to online shopping aids to even stress relievers! Plus, you can filter plug-ins by category, user rating, and a bunch of other parameters until you find the one you're looking for. One odd thing about Chrome extensions, though, is that you have to choose whether or not you want to enable them in normal browsing mode as well as "Incognito" (a.k.a. private browsing) mode.

Chrome extensions

Firefox

Firefox has a large collection of extensions as well, being one of the pioneers of customizable add-ons since it launched in 2004. Its catalogue of plug-ins related to security and privacy is particularly impressive, totalling over 800 different apps! It has add-ons for 14 other categories of use, as well. You can sort extensions in various ways, or filter them based on what operating system your device uses. And unlike Chrome, extensions are enabled by default whether you're browsing normally or privately.

Firefox extensions

Plug-ins and extensions winner: Chrome

While Firefox gets marks for having so many extensions devoted to security and privacy, it just can't measure up to the larger and more well-rounded pool of add-ons for customizing Chrome. Add to that the superior search tools in Chrome's extensions marketplace, and Chrome comes out ahead here.

Web standard compatibility and mobile friendliness

Chrome

As we mentioned in the "Speed and Performance" section, Chrome is one of the better browsers when it comes to adapting to new digital technology standards. It has consistently topped Firefox in benchmark compatibility tests for HTML5, for example.

Mobile version of Google Chrome

It also has better mobile integration via its "one account" system; if you set up your Google account on your smartphone or tablet, all of your settings for Chrome come with it. This does raise some privacy concerns, though; rest assured Google knows what you're doing on Chrome, regardless of whether you use it on a desktop or mobile device.

Firefox

Perhaps because of its more privacy-and-security-conscious approach, Firefox lags a bit behind Chrome when it comes to adopting new mobile and web standards. It is phasing out older technologies – like Shockwave/Flash – and implementing new ones – like HTML5 – but it doesn't seem to handle the new ones as well as Chrome. And again, because of privacy concerns, its integration with mobile devices is somewhat limited, requiring you to have a separate account to carry over settings.

Mobile version of Firefox

Which is better for web/mobile tech compatibility: Chrome

Chrome has a clear advantage in terms of compatibility and integration with cutting-edge web and mobile functions, though this costs it in terms of privacy.

Memory and battery usage

Chrome

One of the most popular complaints about Chrome is that it's a bit on the heavy side of the computer memory scale. At installation, it tops out around 400 megabytes ­– almost quadruple Firefox's initial memory cost. It is also about twice as memory-intensive as Firefox when it's running, which can be hard on your device's battery.

Firefox

Firefox is one of the more lightweight browsers. At installation, it comes in at just under 100 megabytes, and its memory usage while running is about half that of Chrome. This makes it a lot more battery-friendly for your device – almost 50% more so than Chrome, by some benchmark tests.

Which is better for memory and battery usage: Firefox

Chrome's biggest weakness is its hunger for memory and power, and that costs it this battle. Enough said.

The verdict

So, is Firefox better than Chrome? Or the other way around? The answer, like for a lot of other comparisons, is "it depends." That is, it depends on what your priorities are, what kind of hardware you're using, and maybe just your personal tastes as well. So, here's a quick recap:

Chrome is better if...

  • Browsing speed and performance are very important to you
  • You're really worried about hackers and other cyber threats
  • You like a simple, no-nonsense interface that just lets you do what you need to do
  • You like to customize your Internet experience
  • You use a lot of other Google products
  • You're using a device that is usually (or always) plugged in, so power consumption isn't an issue
  • You don't run many programs at once on your device, so memory use isn't an issue

Firefox is better if:

  • You want reliable (but not spectacular) browsing speed and performance
  • You want a secure browsing experience without sacrificing the privacy of your personal data
  • You want a user interface that's functional and customizable without being overly cluttered
  • You want to customize your browser to keep people from snooping on your Internet habits
  • You want a less memory-intensive browser so you can run other programs at the same time
  • You're using a portable or mobile device on-the-go, so you want to save battery power
  • You like to use cool advanced functions, such as web developer tools or a native VoIP plug-in

 

There you have it: a brief but comprehensive guide to deciding whether Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox is the better web browser for your needs.

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